This is something of a love song. Not romantic but nonetheless meaningful. Not from the libido but from the heart.

From time to time in the eight years I’ve lived as a retiree/émigré in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, I’ve met young Mexican men who’ve had a lasting effect on me. A few of them in recent months have stood out and warrant special recognition. They are: Gabriel, the owner/builder of my new apartment; Orlando, the carpenter who made my new dining room table; Jesus, the manager of the storage company where I kept my belongings before moving into this apartment; and Pablo, the computer wizard who’s guided me through several technological thickets in recent weeks.

What these young men have in common, in my view – other than being young, handsome, intelligent, hard-working, kind-hearted, good-natured and supremely patient – has been this: their acknowledgment of others’ humanity. And by “others” I mean the group I belong to, my cohort – older, single, American women – the group that has felt, due to rampant ageism and sexism in the U.S., utterly invisible there and has, for many reasons, decided to live here.

To these younger Mexican men we older gringas are not invisible. In my experience they seem to look at us with a kind of awe or wonder – as if they can’t imagine their own madres (mothers) or abuelas (grandmothers) going off to live in another country on their own and trying to navigate a new life in a language that’s foreign to them.

When I was young and living in the States, I observed that young American men tend to fall over themselves to help a pretty little damsel in distress. But that impulse appears to fade as that damsel ages. Older women in the U.S. are too often negated, sidelined, ignored, or treated as has-beens. We are no longer seen.

That doesn’t seem to be the case with Mexican men, I’ve found. The gallant young Mexican men I’ve dealt with strive to do all in their power to ease our (that is to say, older, single, women’s) path. It’s been astonishing to me, really, to be the beneficiary of their kindness, patience, and attentiveness.

Gabriel, my dueño (landlord), couldn’t be more thoughtful, helpful, and accommodating. He tells me frequently that it makes him happy to make me happy; and, since I am very happy here, I always see him smiling.

Orlando, the carpenter who made my beloved new dining room table, put so much loving care into its making I can not only see it, I can feel it every time I serve a meal on it.

Gabriel (left) and Orlando with my new table, the day Orlando delivered it to my new apartment in March

Jesus (aptly named because he’s the most Christlike young man I’ve ever met) and I became friendly when I chose his storage company and often lingered in his office when I brought more items to my unit. His warmth and smile made me feel welcome, and he enjoyed practicing his English with me. He shared with me photos of his family and showed me his newest taekwondo award. He told me repeatedly, “I am always at your service, Bonnie,” and we’ve stayed in touch on WhatsApp.

Jesus displaying his newest taekwondo badge

Pablo is a computer whiz who looks to me like an Inca warrior. His gift, in my view, is understanding that some of us in my cohort just don’t “get” computer technology. So he goes out of his way to patiently explain, soothe and guide. Instead of making me feel hopelessly stupid – as other computer experts have excelled at doing – Pablo manages to normalize my inability to grasp this stuff. “We all have different talents,” he says consolingly.

I don’t have a photo of Pablo, so this statue of an Inca warrior from Getty Images will have to do. Imagine, though, that the shield is a computer laptop.

Madres, and, by extension, abuelas, are deeply revered in Mexican culture, as we all were reminded last week on May 10th, the fixed date of Mexico’s annual Mothers’ Day. From what I’ve experienced with these particular young men, though, the mothers don’t necessarily have to be their own. Perhaps I’m imagining things, but I think I see in their eyes when they look at me a kind of rare, sweet, innocent-little-boy admiration. Or you might call it love. And it’s of this that I’m singing.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~




26 thoughts on “Visible”

  1. Beautiful, Bonnie. Finding the right people to do the job certainly has added to my experience of San MIguel, as well.

    1. Thanks so much, Victoria. Yes, all human beings everywhere yearn to be recognized (seen) and respected. It’s easier to experience that here, I feel.

  2. I am so happy you have such a wonderful group of young men around you. I have my Jose here in the States. He works for me 365 days a year and he is my gift from God. He left his family in Mexico 12 years ago and works 7 days a week to send money home so they can live a comfortable, blessed life. I wish all my loved ones a Jose, Orlando, Gabriel, Jesus and Pablo to make their life easier and more full of kindness. Besitos…. xo

  3. Thank you, Bonnie. Your Mexico experiences are like my own! My contractors may make a mistake but they always fix it and they always say “Don’t worry. We are going to make you happy!”

  4. Hello Bonnie, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for this honorable mention.
    One part of Mexican that I can share is that my house is your home. And in my house everyone is always treated with respect and affection

    Thank you for your friendship, a huge hug.

  5. Bonnie, this is so very true. We are invisible in the States, marginalized, tossed aside, and certainly not valued for our wisdom and life experience. As awful and inhumane as this is, I have learned to embrace a small part of it. I am about to go to the grocery with my work jeans and jacket full of clay because I am positive no one will even SEE me. Here, I do not qualify to be seen and all the better for me today! There is a freedom in this, and no longer having those primping hormones active clears one’s head for more important and meaningful things. I can use that extra 1/2 hour primp time in a more productive way.
    I love your table, there is nothing more beautiful that eating and drinking with objects that have been made by a loving hand. I wish you and your table many happy memories together for years to come.
    Love from CT.

    1. It’s always fun to look at things from a different angle, isn’t it, dear Barbara! I’d never thought of the benefits of not wasting time primping because no one will be noticing either way! 🙂 Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences. Wish you were closer so you could come and eat at my lovely table. — xx

  6. BonnieDear, this is so beautiful. You never fail to inspire in one way or another, but this one really moved me. I am so happy you are being treated with the kind of reverence that few American women receive from American men—no matter what age they are. And judging from my experience in San Miguel, you are spot on. From my experience there, the young women also seem attentive and kind.

    1. Thank you so much, BeDear, for your kind words. I didn’t mean to imply that these qualities only apply to young Mexican men. It’s just that it’s so refreshing to find them in men. 🙂

  7. I am so glad, Bonnie, that such good men have touched your life. Everyone deserves to be “visible”. I learnt as I grew older, to remove the people who made me feel insignificant, and to only allow people who empowered me, to be a part of my life. In a way, I made myself visible to people who appreciated me, and who I appreciated, in return.

    1. So well said, dear Loula. Yes, everyone wants (and deserves) to be acknowledged and appreciated.Thank you, as ever, for your thoughtful contribution.

  8. Dear Bon,
    What a heartfelt, fitting reflection on the difference between our two cultures, and how one maintains the empathy and sense of respect which the other culture believes is now unnecessary. It is a balm to my spirit to know you are watched over in this manner. Everything I know about you tells me this treatment is the result of a life well-lived.

    1. How can I thank you enough, dear Paul, for your loving words? You are such a blessing in my life. I’m deeply, deeply grateful to know you and love you. — BB xx

  9. Bonnie dear. I loved your blog Visible and can really relate to your words.I too have my group of Mexican male angels in my life and they do make such a difference. But sad to tell you our Pablo is no longer at Geek. How will we ever replace him?

    1. Thank you, dear Ruth. I’m so glad this post resonated with you. Yes, Pablo has started a “real” (as my mom would call it) full-time job. We’ll certainly miss seeing him at Geek!

  10. Dear Bonnie, You have truly captured the experience of being an older woman in Mexico vs the US. Thank you for introducing us to “your young men”. Alice

  11. I completely agree with you. The values, kindness, decency, and other fine character traits still live in México and are constantly evident. No place is perfect, but I’m so damned grateful to be here that it makes me also sad to realize the shortcomings of the USA and also certain family members (no names) who show much less concern or interest in our well-being. I cannot really “blame” it completely on individuals as it’s also a societal shift in regard to priorities to the point of being tragic and frightening. We are blessed to have this opportunity to receive such generosity of spirit, and I hope that collectively we give back enough to make it a fair exchange – I think that we do…in various ways so that it’s mutually beneficial in ways of the heart. I hope…

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your perspective, Dorothy. I so agree with you (on every point you make), especially about the sad “societal shift” in the States. And I too hope with you that we here in Mexico “collectively give back enough.” Yes, we are blessed to be here!

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